“Old Enough” by Patty Ireland An Ars Poetica

As a poet I have learned
to approach syrupy topics,
(tears, grandmothers and any
thing that dances),
with caution.
But I am old

to be a grandmother,
and it just so happens
both of mine
could dance like hell and drive
grown men to tears.

One danced from Donegal to
Baltimore, my mother in her womb, stowing
away on a ship that left Dublin harbor
the Wednesday after Bloody Sunday,
leaving her own father, formidable at
six feet two, to be felled to the
moist earth by
little things like tears, To never know
her high-stepping feet had carried
her far, landed her firmly,
trampled down
the mud, kicked up
the dirt,
pillared her so
that on the day she died at ninety-six,
after burying four children and a husband,
by God she could still cut
a rug.

The other was Cherokee,
dying one year to the day
before my birth.

They say she could move like a cloud
cut from silk,
her face rarely wavering atop its willowy
Slithering through midnight doors,
to gyrate against wild
till the wee hours,
Till the shock of her extremes: body in
sinewy motion, face, a stoic goddess set
in stone,
drove my grandfather mad,
sent his plaintive cries howling
down the asylum halls at Lyon’s View,
The drip, drip of his tortuous tears, a broken
water faucet trickling
incessantly against
the darkness.

From the one, my birthright is hair
of flame, freckled skin, an affinity for telling
one’s beads.
From the other, jutting cheekbones, black
eyes, the will to dare nature.
I am what remains,
the distilled fusion of this
mix of paradox.
My liquid verbs will
not rip through the gut of reality with the sharp
blade of an eighteen-year-old.

I am old.

to come to you from the black
and white landscape of segregated drinking
Where JFK, Dr. King and Bobby were shot
dead on the six o’clock news,
Where everything danced:
snowflakes, raindrops, politicians.
Where everything cried:
clouds, babies, Vietnam vets.
Where reality itself cried
out for poets whose words could slash softly through
the tender throat of morning.
I am old.


to provoke tears, hide them, cry them,
dry them
To dance every day.
(I am dancing with these words right
Finally old enough
to be
unafraid of the Great Unfinished


Patty Ireland holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and is an Associate Professor of English at Pellissippi State Community College. Ireland is a published writer of short stories and poems as well as an established BMI lyricist/composer. Her forthcoming creative nonfiction book, East Ridge As Eden, chronicles her experience of growing up with a mother who suffered from Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease and an uneducated but wise Appalachian father. 


**Featured image by Tyler Mcrobert, Unsplash

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